“For Christ’s sake keep your voice down.”
Tarzan hadn’t been shouting his head off. And he and Cody had gone off somewhere away from the others. But it was a mark of how terror ruled in this place. An ominous presence that hung in the air. Like even the trees had ears. Put one step wrong. And the overseers’ lash struck out.
“If anyone heard .. especially if word got to Wanaga .. he’d sell you down the river in the blink of an eye. Inform on you to the bastards. And sit back and grin as you get the shit beaten out of you.”
Once Cody had described Wanaga like a volcano about to blow its top. The new slaves were all angry. They hadn’t got to accepting their fate. And they all had Wanaga to thank for that. But HE was a constant seething mountain of rage. Every fibre in Wanaga’s body was pumped up with temper at the betrayal of these slavers. He’d been their partner, now he was their slave.
“He can’t take it out on the slavers,” Cody had pointed out. “But I’ve seen the way he looks at you, Tarzan … he wouldn’t hesitate. He’ll take it out on you. He blames YOU.”
Tarzan nodded. He was in no doubt.
“If he even got a whiff of you planning to fight back …. He’d grass you up. Without a moment’s hesitation.”
Cody reckoned Wanaga still thought he could win the slavers round. But Cody had seen their sneers. They had no time for him. But that wouldn’t stop Wanaga from selling Tarzan out. And sitting back grinning as the slavers made a lesson out of Tarzan again. Wanaga might even make something up. Just to get his own back.
Tarzan had seen the murderous looks too. Lucky then that Wanaga spent the day chained to a hand cart .. like Tarzan transporting heavy cartloads of cocoa pods around. The muscular tough types assigned to the most daunting work. The tracks through the forest were narrow and un-kept. Only a hand cart penetrated. The pair hauled a heavily laden cart all day through the sweltering heat. A metal collar locked on their necks .. a short chain fixed it to the shafts. Tarzan couldn’t even help to load the cart to speed things up. Sweltering between the traces .. trapped there by collar and chain. Chained to the cart .. an effortless way of making sure the slavers’ “special cases” could not run away.
And it did save Tarzan from Wanaga getting his hands on a machete and giving it Tarzan in the back.
Their own batch of fresh slaves still had the fire of anger burning in them at getting captured and condemned to this. But the earlier slaves .. the ones who’d been here for months .. clearly they’d given up hope. Ground down by hopelessness. Empty shells. The slavers had worked them into the ground. They had no spirit left. Their wills broken into giving up any hope.
Certainly no fighting spirit. And Tarzan’s first thoughts had started with that idea. An uprising. The slaves outnumbered the slavers, four to one. There were machetes around. A surprise ambush, coordinated. They stood a fighting chance. The slavers would never expect it. It just needed someone to lead.
Cody was worried, though, that word would get around, the slavers would hear. And they’d make an example of Tarzan. And it wouldn’t be pretty. Wanaga would like nothing better than to betray his old foe. Enjoy watching as the white-men beat Tarzan within an inch of his life. With luck they might go further. Give Wanaga that ultimate prize. Put an end to the fucker .. once-and-for-all.
Wanaga was a risk to his plan of a riot. But Tarzan was more worried about the other slaves finding the spirit. Would they rise up? Would they dare take their overseers on? He doubted it, he couldn’t trust the dispirited ones. And there weren’t enough of the newly-arrived to take on the slavers.
And how long would it take before their own batch of fresh slaves had the will crushed out of them? Before they had no fight left in them too? How long had Tarzan got?